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Author
Geir Moulson
Date
July 9, 2013

Insurer: European floods year’s costliest disaster

BERLIN (AP) — Last month’s flooding in central Europe caused more than $16 billion in damage, about a quarter of it insured — making it the year’s costliest natural disaster so far, a leading insurance company said Tuesday.

Natural disasters worldwide cost the insurance industry a total of about $13 billion in the January-June period, while the overall cost of disasters was some $45 billion, Munich Re AG said in a regular review of disaster costs.

Both figures were well below the average for the past decade.

Munich Re put insured losses from the flooding caused by the Elbe, Danube and several other rivers overflowing their banks at some $3.9 billion or more — most of them in Germany, but also in the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

That is a little higher than the $3.4 billion cost to insurers of floods that hit many of the same areas in 2002. The overall cost of those floods, including uninsured damage, was $16.5 billion.

The German government has set up an 8 billion-euro ($10.3 billion) fund to repair the damage. On Tuesday, the country’s national railway said part of a key high-speed line connecting Berlin with Frankfurt, Cologne and Amsterdam will remain shut for repairs “until further notice,” making time-consuming detours necessary.

Still, the flooding doesn’t appear likely to throw the country’s economy off course, since it didn’t hit major industrial areas.

“Politicians should not only set up emergency funds after catastrophes but should act with greater foresight, engaging in prudent supraregional flood control, which should ideally be coordinated across national borders,” Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek said in a statement.

A series of tornadoes in Oklahoma — including one that killed 24 people in Moore on May 20 — were the second-costliest disaster for insurers in the first six months of the year. They caused insured losses of nearly $1.6 billion, while overall losses totaled $3.1 billion, Munich Re said.

April’s earthquake in China’s Sichuan province caused $6.8 billion worth of damage but only a fraction of that — $25 million — was insured, the company said. Flooding last month in the Canadian province of Alberta caused damage initially estimated at more than $3 billion, with insured losses likely to top $1 billion.

For the whole of last year, Munich Re has said, natural disasters cost insurers $65 billion — with Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. accounting for $25 billion. It put total disaster costs at $160 billion.

Munich Re is a reinsurer, meaning that it provides coverage to insurance companies for large losses stemming from events like natural disasters.

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